Army - Caught in the Line of Fire

In the past few months, we’ve been reading a lot about Kashmir and how the so-called draconian AFSPA is to blame for all of the valley’s troubles. We read about fresh reports of violence every day, more deaths every day. For the first time in decades, all of Kashmir was placed under curfew a few days back.

The Indian Army was caught in the line of fire. Everyone from separatists to the CM of J&K laid the blame squarely on the Indian Army’s shoulders. What everyone conveniently chose to ignore was the fact that the Army was not directly responsible for even a single death in Kashmir during the past few months. The bullets were all fired by J&K police or by the battalions of CRPF!

M.J.Akbar's article in this Sunday’s ToI (reproduced on his blog - link here) helped in reinforcing my stand. Do read this article to get a crystal-clear context of the state in Kashmir. The cacophony against the Army is clearly a ploy to get the only force capable of holding the valley together, out of there; thus allowing Pak-controlled elements a free run. There are a few unanswered questions though:
  1. Why is Omar Abdullah joining the tirade against the Army? Is it just a survival tactic or is there more to it?
  2. What made the GoI to sit on the simmering cauldron for so long before calling for an all-party meet?
There may be a few bad elements in the Army, and there may be ill-treatment of the locals. This should not be allowed to continue. However, meddling with the affairs of the Army in Kashmir is a bad idea given the current situation and how Pakistan and extremists are raring to go. I believe the Army needs to stay - for they are the only ones capable of upholding the integrity of the region, and thus the nation.

Help Ladakh: Photo Exhibition in Bangalore

This July, I had been on an almost heavenly journey to Ladakh [see the end of this post for details on the travelog]. Less than 2 weeks after I returned from there, tragedy struck this paradise. Cloudbursts and flash floods devastated the region, leading to massive losses of life and livelihood.

As anybody who has visited Ladakh will tell you – it is impossible to get the experience out of your psyche. The massive scale of everything that makes up the terrain (mountains, lakes, valleys) which make you feel insignificant; the simplistic culture and lifestyle of the very affable populace; the feeling of being one with nature and being lost. That's the kind of emotional connect that you develop with this place.

The natural calamity no doubt gave sleepless nights to whoever has visited Ladakh, myself included. I wanted to do something about it, but did not know in what way I could contribute. I kept asking myself hazaar questions. Should I donate? Should I volunteer? How? How much?

The answer presented itself in the form of the “Glimpses From Ladakh” photo exhibition [link]. This is being organized by PhotograhpyOnTheMove and 1 Shanthi Road. The theme is simple – you submit snaps that you clicked of Ladakh, and they shortlist some of these photos. The short listed ones will be exhibited; and the proceeds from the exhibition will go towards rehabilitation work in Ladakh.

I submitted 5 of the photos that I had clicked, and one of them has been shortlisted. The thumbnails of all the shortlisted snaps can be seen here. Mine is the 21st snap from top (it is also available at my Flickr photostream here ). The exhibition will be held at the design studio, 1 Shanthi Road in Bangalore. It will run from 17th to 26th September; 11 a.m to 8 p.m. Please do spread the word, especially to Bangalore-based people, to ensure that people attend in large numbers and make this event a success.

Event Details
What: Glimpses From Ladakh Photo Exhibition
Where: 1, Shanthi Road [Address Details Link]
When: 17th to 26th September
More details: Facebook Page. Also, check the Facebook Event link for RSVP.

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There are few other avenues to help/donate towards this cause. While looking for ways to do so, I came across the following:

  • Save The Children: Allows you to donate in denominations of 2.5, 5, 10 or 20 thousand rupees, which will all go towards helping the affected children.
  • RESET: Allows online donation in Euros. Details of projects are available on the web page.
  • LeDeG: Stands for Ladakh ecological Development Group. This is the organization through which the proceeds of the photo exhibition will be channeled. You can also donate to them directly.
  • SOS Ladakh: This is a campaign being run by NDTV. They provide a bank account number of The Hope Trust through which donations are accepted. I did not find much info on what work is being carried out etc.

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Over the weeks since I returned from Ladakh, I have penned down the travelog on my travel blog . Here is the link to my picasa web album. I have recounted by experience over a 4-part series. Here is a snippet from my Part 1.

In Ladakhi language, “La” means pass and “Dakh” means land. Ladakh, thus, means land of passes. It is easy to see why. There's hardly any 2 places in Ladakh that don't have a pass between them! But Ladakh is much more than just that.


Ladakh is a land of seemingly never-ending valleys, punctuated with streams and rivers, and the patches of greenery they bring about.
Ladakh is a land of snow-capped mountain peaks, mountains which are often completely barren.
Ladakh is a land of yaks and ibex, wild asses and horses, marmots and double humped camels, of migratory birds.
Ladakh is a land of lakes that seem to change colour and shade according to their mood.
Ladakh is a land of deserts and pastures, of nomads and tourists, of Gompas and monks.
Ladakh is the ultimate get-away destination, a magical land sure to linger in your psyche long after you've returned to your normal life.


For the complete travelog, visit my travel blog. In particular, here is how the travelog has been split

  • Bangalore-Delhi.
  • Delhi-Leh.
  • In and around Leh.

  • 2-day trip: Leh-Pangong lake and back
  • 2-day trip: Leh-Nubra valley and back

  • Leh-TsoMoriri lake
  • TsoMoriri-TsoKar lake
  • TsoKar – Keylong

  • Keylong-Manali
  • Manali sight-seeing
  • Manali-Delhi-Bangalore.

55er: Hindrance

For once, it didn't have to wade through a sea of vehicles.
For once, the little traffic that there was, made way.
For once, there was no chaos at signals.
And yet, by the time the ambulance reached the hospital, it was too late.
Culprit: Way too many speed breakers, and the seriously impedimentary potholes.

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This Friday, on near-empty roads, I was driving to office. An ambulance rushed past me, but the poor fellow couldn't make much progress. I found myself almost on the tail of the flashing lights for the next 5 minutes. It was sad to see the vehicle slow down every 10 metres to negotiate speed-breakers or potholes.

Who is to blame if a patient does not reach hospital in time in such cases? Do we give a thought to emergency situations when we design such grand Himalayan-esque speed breakers?

55er: The Dog That Barks

Dear Mr. Obama,

Conventional wisdom seems to have been turned on its head. The (mad) dog that barks looks like it is about to bite … … its own self. But then, one does not expect a mad dog to know about symbiotic relationships that are vital for survival of both organisms involved, does one?

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Related Reading:

Who's the Bigger Killer?

Check out this headline at ToI [link] which screams “Forces bigger killers than terrorists”. This is in reference to Kashmir valley. According to ToI, since five civilians fall prey to forces' bullets for every two that are slain by terrorists, that automatically makes the forces the bigger killers.

Dear dimwits @ ToI, I wonder whether the following questions so much as even crossed your mind:

  • What is the difference between the “civilians” killed by security forces and those killed by the separatists?
  • Why are armed forces left with no choice but to fire at crowds? (Hint: the answer involves the terms “stone”, “violence” and “danger to innocents” in no particular order)
  • If the “civilians” killed by men in uniform, are instigated to resort to violence by the terrorists, ultimately who shoulders the blame for the death?


Of course, exploring non-lethal ways of controlling crowds is a step in the right direction. That still doesn't explain why ToI has to make this heading look more like Hurriyat propaganda than a news item.

Any answers, “respected” ToI?

Bacha Baz: Afghanistan's Dirty Secret

If you thought stoning of women was the worst social evil prevalent in Afghanistan, think again. If this article titled "Afghanistan's Dirty Little Secret" is to be believed [link], that country is probably the paedophile capital of the world. Add to it, the fact the the victims are mostly boys; and the fact that the older men flout their boys with pride. They even have a term for it – Bacha Baz which literally means “boy player”.

The article also describes dance parties where boys are dressed up as girls and leered on by men probably twice their age. This reminds me of the closing chapters of “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini. When I had read that book, I had thought that the author has depicted a one-off incident. Little did I know that he was trying to tell the world about the truth!

The ending of the article is what makes me despair.
As one boy, in tow of a man he called "my lord," told the Reuters reporter: "Once I grow up, I will be an owner, and I will have my own boys."
Why can't the world spare its children all these forms of abuse? Why?

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